AVOID ALCOHOL AND DRUGS WHILE PREGNANCY
The harmful effects of alcohol on the developing baby were recognized in the
early 1900's, when physicians observed an increase in the number of malformations
occurring in babies born nine months after certain European drinking festivals.
Unfortunately, any alcohol you drink will get into your baby's blood, just as
it does into yours – and at the same levels.
- Drinking can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome.
Heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome
(FAS), a disorder encompassing a variety of abnormalities. FAS babies are
lighter, shorter, and have smaller brains than normal babies. Sometimes
their brains are malformed, and they may suffer mental retardation as a
result. Babies with fetal alcohol syndrome have unusual facial characteristics
– their eyes appear smaller than usual, their nose is short, their
upper lip is thin, and they may have abnormalities of the hands, feet, and
- Drinking Can Lead to Low Birth Weight and Even Miscarriage.
Studies show that maternal alcohol consumption can also cause pregnancy
complications such as miscarriage, low birth weight, and pre-maturity. Like
smoking, alcohol's most harmful effects are on brain development. The effects
of maternal drinking on the baby have been dubbed "a life-long hangover."
- What about an occasional glass of wine?
While one occasional glass of wine with dinner may not be as dangerous,
knowing how much is too much is a question no research has answered. Studies
show that like smoking, alcohol has a dose-related effect. This means the
more alcohol mother consumes, the more damage her baby is likely to suffer.
Studies also demonstrate that both binge drinking (five or more drinks on
one occasion) and regular drinking (an average of two drinks per day throughout
pregnancy) definitely harms babies. (One drink means one ounce of hard alcohol,
one 8-ounce glass of wine, or one 12-ounce glass of beer.) Obviously, the
riskiest time to drink an alcoholic beverage is during the first trimester,
compared to the risk at 36 weeks, when babies' organs are fully formed.
An occasional, single glass of wine or beer in the last month is unlikely
to harm your baby.
Best to refrain completely. It's important to rely on your common sense, as
well as scientific studies. Perhaps the safest way is to refrain from drinking
alcohol during your pregnancy. If you're at social gatherings where alcoholic
drinks are served, drink like a child, because you are carrying one. Order your
drink "virgin" (without alcohol), or enjoy flavored bottled waters.
JUST SAY NO TO DRUGS
Illegal drugs . When a mother takes any substance or drug, so does her baby.
When a mother is addicted, so is her baby. After birth, this baby suffers symptoms
of drug withdrawal (extreme irritability and jitteriness). Infants of mothers
who use addicting drugs during pregnancy are more difficult to care for after
birth, and may show lifelong effects of their mother's drug use.
Drugs affect a baby throughout pregnancy, but are most dangerous in the first
trimester. Possible effects of illegal drugs on the developing baby include
stillbirth, miscarriage, reduced birth weight, mental retardation, pre- maturity,
and an increased risk in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In fact, the risk
of SIDS may be increased as much as twenty times in infants of opiate- abusing
mothers. Researchers believe that drugs such as opiates and cocaine also harm
developing babies indirectly by constricting blood vessels in the placenta and
thus reducing the oxygen supply to the pre-born baby – a suffocation effect
similar to that caused by nicotine.
Marijuana. Until recently, maternal marijuana smoking during pregnancy was
not proven to be harmful to babies. Newer studies, however, suggest that marijuana
can harm the fetus in all the ways mentioned above, thanks to its active ingredient
THC. In addition, the smoke of a joint contains the same nicotine and carbon
monoxide found in cigarettes, only in doses that may be greater than those found
in commercially available tobacco products.
Amphetamines (speed). These addictive drugs are also harmful to the developing
baby and increase the chances of pre-maturity and intrauterine growth retardation.
Newborns of speed-addicted mothers show typical speed withdrawal symptoms (rapid
heart rates and breathing) immediately after birth.
See a Professional. If you are addicted to drugs, make an appointment with
a professional counselor or enroll yourself in a drug withdrawal program the
day you discover you are pregnant. Even better, start these programs as soon
as you decide to get pregnant.